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UAE Abu Dhabi Dubai Driving License Exchange  

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Exchanging home country driving licence for Dubai or UAE driving licence

15 October 2009 - All nationalities must take a driving test (again?)

UAE media reported that expats from all countries might be required to take a theory and practical test before being allowed to obtain a UAE driving license. This was apparently a recommendation from a UK consultancy, Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). A final report would go to the UAE Ministry of the Interior by the end of 2009 before possible revision of the UAE driving license exchange rules.

06 April 2007 - All/most nationalities must now take a driving test?

Information below about certain nationalities exchanging licences may not be correct as of 15 January 2007, or 06 April 2007. The Khaleej Times (an English language UAE newspaper) carried a report on 06 April 2007 that Shihab Hamad Bu Shihab, Manager of Driving Licences at the RTA (Dubai Roads and Transport Authority) said holders of licences from countries that were previously allowed to simply exchange them for a UAE driving licence, must now do a minimum 21 classes and a driving test. Apparently this rule has been in place since 15 January 2007. Whether or not this will be implemented/enforced is unknown, despite what Mr Shihab says. See Dubai driving licence forum topic for Khaleej Times newspaper article and comments.

Countries that can exchange their driving licence in the UAE

Certain nationalities have the good fortune to be able to obtain a Dubai driving licence simply by showing their own driving license, and going through a bit of paperwork. The procedure takes an hour or so. If you're not one of the lucky ones, you'll have to pass a driving test first - an annoyingly time-consuming and bewildering procedure. Expats with licences from other GCC countries may or may not - they're supposed to have a license from the country of nationality. The list of countries that can obtain a Dubai driving licences without the driving test from dubai.ae/dubaipolice.gov.ae is below. A * means you need to get license translated into Arabic. Canadians need to get a letter from the Canadian Consulate in Dubai to state the license is genuine. Countries for driving licence exchange in Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, RAK, Sharjah, and UAQ should be the same or similar.

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahrain
  • Belgium
  • Canada*
  • Cyprus*
  • Czech Republic*
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece*
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan*
  • South Korea*
  • Kuwait
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Poland*
  • Portugal*
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia*
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey*
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Note that your original driving licence is supposed to be from the same country as your passport nationality. If it's not, try to get a Dubai driving licence anyway. People have succeeded before - possibly because they have something like an EU passport with a UK driving licence or vice versa. An Australian/NZ combination might work also. As of 2007 this is less likely to be possible.

Update 05 August 2009: A UAE traffic department representative (Ali Mohammed Al Jasem from the Dubai RTA driver's licence department?) was interviewed on the Dubai Eye radio station, and during the show said that a citizen of one of the driving licence exchange countries could freely exchange their license even if it was from a different country, as long as it was from one of the countries on the list. Citizens of countries not on the list could not exchange a licence even if the licence was from a driving licence exchange country.

If you have an Asian passport and a non-Asian driver's license, you may find it more difficult as many Asian driving licences are not accepted for a simple conversion - a driving test has to be done before getting a driver's licence for Dubai.

The following 2 paragraphs may be out of date from 01 March 2008, depending on how the new Federal Traffic Law is implemented.

  • Each Emirate issues their own driving licenses and procedures, which, whilst generally the same, occasionally have some odd differences. For example, apparently New Zealanders cannot do an exchange with a Sharjah driving licence (rumour has it that someone important from Sharjah got a traffic ticket while in NZ several years ago - maybe the person concerned has calmed down and NZers can do a simple exchange again).
  • You will have to get a driving license from the Emirate which you received your residency visa from although if you live in a different Emirate and have a tenancy contract in your name, you may be able to try and get a driving licence from that Emirate (as can be done with car registration).
Visitors and tourists driving private cars in the UAE
  • Visitors and tourists to the UAE cannot exchange their home country licences, but those who hold a licence from one of the free exchange countries might be permitted to drive private cars with their home country licence while visiting the UAE.
  • This might only apply to visitors entering Dubai (for other emirates the visitor might need an IDP, and have to apply for a temporary driving licence).
  • This might only apply to first degree relatives of the car's owner (mother, father, brother, sister).
  • This might only apply if driving the car within the emirate of Dubai, and the car is registered in Dubai.
  • Check with the RTA in Dubai, and/or police in the emirate which issued the visit visa or where the private car is registered. Tell them where your car is registered, your nationality, your visitor's nationality, their relationship to you (just say "friend" if boyfriend or girlfriend), and where they will drive the car. Then phone again the next day to talk to someone different and to see if you get the same answer.
  • For driving rental cars, slightly different rules apply - an IDP and/or home country licence is required, but not a temporary driving licence.

Why all the "mights" and "maybes"? Because it's difficult to get consistent answers from official sources. If you want to take the safe route, either your visitor should rent a car, or they should go to the RTA or Dubai Police and get a temporary licence. Then get something from your insurance company in writing that they are covered.

Procedure for exchange of home country driving licence for a Dubai driver's license
  • Bring your driving license from your home country to show them (you'll get it back) - and a copy.
  • Bring your passport with resident's visa and a couple of copies.
  • Bring a couple of hundred dhs and some passport photographs (at least twice as many as you think you need - 4 or 5 should be enough).
  • Go to Dubai Police Traffic Department in Umm Suqueim on Sheikh Zayed Road interchange 4 near Mall of the Emirates (it's signposted), next to the garden center. You may be able to get a Dubai driver's licence at the other Police Traffic Departments - there's one near Al Mulla Plaza for example. Or you may get sent back to Go.
  • There's a typing office there where you pay money and get an application form typed out in Arabic. Start there, then take your documents to the Dubai driving license application area. The usual Dubai application procedure applies - get a number from a machine, wonder why you bothered when no one seems to take any notice of it, and eventually hand in your application to someone official looking. Bring a book or magazine to read and don't sweat it.
  • If you have to wear contact lenses or spectacles, you may do an eye test there. If that's not stated on your own driver's licence, you probably won't have to do an eye test (this changed sometime in 2005 - previously all applicants for a driver's license had to do an eye test there, then it was changed so they had to go to an optician, then it was only those who already wore visual aids so who knows what it'll be next week...).
UAE driving license with a driving test

See the UAE driving licence and UAE driving schools information.

Last update Sunday 25-Jul-2010
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